10 Thoughts and A Poem (For times of crisis and political despair)

  General thoughts if you didn’t vote for the people who are now in charge of the professional political power structures that govern you, when it is also pretty clear they don’t care about how many people get harmed or killed in their pursuit of the economic- or power-grabbing interests of the privileged few: 1. You may feel overwhelmed. You may feel like you can’t do anything, like it’s all gone to hell. If this is the case, you are losing sight of yourself, and of your place in the world. Sometimes people influence us to do that. Sometimes we do that ourselves. Either way, bring it all back home. You are sufficient, more than sufficient. Everything you need to be strong and courageous has always been available to you. Remember where you are. Who you’re with. What you love. Who you love. Where you love. The anthem of resilience is the beating of the human heart. 2. Trust the way things run against your grain. Resistance is first and foremost a physiological reaction. Anger is often a helpful response to extreme conditions. 3. Anger as a response to conditions doesn’t last. If you are staying angry, you’re generating that

Not Our Circus, Not Our Monkeys #GE2017

It’s a really important time in Northern Ireland. It is now that we can refocus on the possibilities of politics as a hard-edged commitment to nurturing, inclusiveness, and openness. At a shallow level, Northern Irish politics has recently been driven into cul-de-sacs by certain members of an increasingly well-remunerated political class, who often seem to find themselves having too much fun engaging in ritualised battle to concern themselves with the work of transforming Northern Ireland that they have actually been tasked with, and for which they are being paid. All of the patient work of the peace process was in order to achieve structural change in governance following a long period of conflict, killings, sectarian exclusion, discrimination, corruption, and state-sanctioned murder. Some (not me) would argue that at least one side of the paramilitary activity was a normal response to all of that under abnormal conditions, and others (not me) would likely argue something similar about the paramilitary responses from the other side in retaliation. Either way, almost all of the structural gains can be wiped out overnight if certain things happen over the next few days as they seem to be shaping up. If the Conservatives form a government

A Politics of Gentleness: towards a critical vernacular ecology

The following talk was given at Peace House in Oxford on the 21st November, 2013, during a workshop on Gentleness, Trust, and Activism, as part of the Northumbria University project, “Effectiveness in Action: Exploring the role of the Durkheimian ‘sacred’ in motivating community action, using reflexive and gently disruptive co-research methodologies.” The talk covers a lot of the ground from which the cultural climate work of Hummingbird Culture Change emerges, and, in particular, the emphasis on a ‘politics of gentleness’ prefigures the later change of emphasis to focus on garaíocht and ‘ordinary ethics’. The use of the term ‘vernacular’ was a nod to its use as a common term among folklorists to refer to informal and uninstitutional registers of social life, and also to the work of Ivan Illich, for whom ‘vernacular’ refers to an uncommodifying register of relationship (see especially his collection Shadow Work (1981) and the earlier form of this work in Co-Evolution Quarterly: http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/Vernacular.html). I have since turned away from the term vernacular, following the discovery that the etymology of the term is rooted in the Latin vernaculus meaning ‘domestic, native’, from verna ‘home-born slave’. In the words of Iñigo Montoya from The Princess Bride, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” 

A Gentle Ferocity: An Interview with Derrick Jensen

As published in Dark Mountain, Vol. 1 Once, while living in Washington DC a few years ago, I went along to a talk by an ecological activist that I had heard a little bit about, Derrick Jensen. I arrived at the talk and found a few people starting to gather for the event.  Being a little shy, I moved on through and headed for the carrot sticks and cucumber at the back. I dawdled there for a while, rocking on my heels, waiting for the talk. I noticed that there was another guy standing quietly in the corner, keeping to himself, dressed in dark colours, not taking up very much space in the room. I generally feel more comfortable meeting people one-on-one, and I sidled over to say hello. It was Derrick Jensen. Derrick Jensen is an amazingly prolific writer. From early works like A Language Older Than Words (2004) to more recent publications like Endgame (2006), Derrick’s writing offers us a sustained series of meditations on the possibilities of the personal as the political. I would find it hard to think of a writer who inscribes his thoughts with such a delicate combination of vulnerability and purpose. Whether you agree with him or not,